Irish Philadelphia Film Festival: Waking Ned Devine
Waking Ned Devine
Synopsis: Ned Devine, a bachelor farmer in the Irish town of Tullymore, wins the Irish National Lottery. His unbelievable luck is revealed to him one night as he sits in front of the telly, watching the numbered balls roll into place.
He’s thrilled. He’s shocked.
And, in moments, he’s dead.
Before long, word gets out that someone in the village has won the big prize—6.9 million pounds—but who is it? Ned’s not talking.
One of the elders of the village, Jackie O’Shea (Ian Bannen), sets about trying to find out. He enlists the aid of his wife Annie (the stunning Fionnula Flanagan) and his old chum Michael O’Sullivan (the diminutive David Kelly). In a campaign as cunning and subtle as the invasion of Poland (substitute a chicken dinner for the Stuka dive bombers) Jackie eventually rules out everyone in the village—everyone except one man.
Jackie and Michael go to visit Ned at his cottage—and there they discover the terrible truth. They find Ned in his comfy chair in front of the set, a smile frozen on his face, the winning ticket on the floor.
For a while, all seems lost. But then Jackie manages to convince himself that Ned would have wanted his two good friends in the village to share in his good fortune. He hatches a plot to persuade the lottery authorities that his pliant pal Michael is, in fact, the winner Ned Devine—but things rapidly spin out of control and, before long, the whole town is in on the action.
Will they be able to fool the lottery agent who comes to town in search of the winner? Will they persuade the town’s cantankerous, back-stabbing biddy to join the conspiracy—or will she turn them all in for the reward money?
Why It’s One of the Best: Written and directed by Kirk Jones, “Waking Ned” was one of the last films of veteran Scottish actor Ian Bannen. He died in 1999 in a traffic accident, just a year after this film was released. Let’s just say he saved his best for last. In the role of the conniving charmer Jackie O’Shea, Bannen is utterly convincing.
Then again, everyone in this fictional town seems real, from the grasping Lizzie Quinn (Eileen Dromey) to the tender-hearted but malodorous hog farmer “Pig” Finn (James Nesbitt, seen in “Bloody Sunday,” the first film we reviewed in this series). In a film that spans just an hour and a half, we somehow come to know everyone. It feels like we’ve always known them. Then again, if you grew up in a small town, as I did, then you probably have always known them.
Ultimately, “Ned Devine” is a charming confection of a film about friendship and the loving kindnesses of neighbors. It’s about the secrets we all know about each other, good and bad. It’s about community.
It’s also about lottery fraud, too, of course. Ah, but what harm is there in a bit of fraud among friends and neighbors? In the end, you’ll believe, as Jackie does, that Ned would have wanted it that way. So let’s all raise a glass to Ned Devine. And good night and joy be with you all.